the TEC article "Find
the Software's Fatal Flaws To Avoid Failure", we explored the concept
that software can have fatal flaws that can result in anything from discomfort
to disaster. Fatal flaws are defined as the gap between what a software product
offers and the critical functions that a company needs. Many fatal flaws are
the result of a company's industry. The process manufacturing industries, including
food, CPG, chemical, pharmaceuticals and others have some potential fatal flaws
that are common among this group and some that are unique to the actual industry
(not the broad category of process or food but diary, meat, vegetable process,
etc.) See "What
Makes Process Process".
many Fatal Flaws should you expect?
the process industries, the potential for fatal flaws is related to two elements:
- The business
- The company's
position in the Supply Chain.
business function impacts your potential fatal flaws. In general, the closer
you are to the CFO's office (general ledger for example), the more uniform the
functions become across all industries and therefore, most vendors can handle
most of your issues. The closer you are to the plant floor, the greater the
variation and therefore the greater the potential for fatal flaws.
company's position in the Supply Chain also impacts your potential fatal flaws.
The closer you are to the natural resource (the farm, the mine, the oil field,
etc.) the greater the variability of your incoming material. Greater variability
requires functions to track, plan and execute in a way that accounts for the
variability. This variability results in potential fatal flaws. As your position
in the supply chain approaches the consumer, the variation in materials becomes
minimized and product becomes standardized, reducing the potential for fatal
The sources and examples of Fatal Flaws
characteristics of material yield some potential for fatal flaws. Bulk materials
are more difficult to manage with software than packaged materials (a rail car
of chemicals versus a case of paint). The predictability of both the materials
and the process yields some potential for fatal flaws. If material is inconsistent
(quality specifications) or the process is not predictable (quality, yield)
then it is more difficult to manage with software.
processes also give rise to the potential for fatal flaws. If you change the
formula or recipe when you move from line to line, this may be a fatal flaw.
If you vary the types of raw ingredient you use due to price or quality variations
on a daily or even run-by-run basis, this may be a fatal flaw. In both these
cases, will the product you select handle multiple formulas for the same end-item
in planning, in costing, in execution?
relationship with your customers shows some potential for fatal flaws. If you
have complex pricing (deals and promotions in CPG) or must provide customers
with extensive documentation (certificate of analysis, Material Data Safety
Sheets) fewer software products will have the features you need.
The vendors and process Fatal Flaws
most vendors claim to "focus on process". Many of these vendors are
generalists who focus on many different markets. (Question - How many markets
can one vendor focus on and still be allowed to use the word "focus"?)
When looking at vendors, a good rule of thumb is, the broader the market aims
of the vendor, the greater the potential for fatal flaws. A vendor with broad
market ambitions must spread their R&D dollars around to cover multiple markets.
They also design products that work in many markets; that often forces compromises
in some of those markets. Both of these lead to a lack of the detailed features
required satisfying many process company's needs and therefore the software
product's fatal flaws.
the other end of the spectrum are vendors who specialize in a smaller market.
These can be vendors who focus exclusively on process or are even more focused
on a specific process (vendors exist that do only fish processing for example).
These boutique vendors must satisfy the needs of specific markets because that
is their only business. (see "Boutique
Vendors Can Bring Big Value").
"process fatal flaws" stated above should be easy to find with a process
only vendor. Some generalist vendors will have these features, but you must
proceed with caution to insure that the generalist vendor you select has what
you need and that it works in a way that satisfies your specific needs — remember
the devil is in the detail. At a lower level of detail (not process, not food
but meat, dairy, etc.) exist more potential fatal flaws that also must be considered.
Looking for the Fatal Flaws
determine where your potential fatal flaws are, look at the details of your
industry. Variations in business that may create fatal flaws may include items
- Specialty vs.
- Batch vs. continuous
vs consumer market
- Natural resources
as raw material vs. preprocessed materials
- Assembly vs.
disassembly of raw materials into end products
each of these trade-offs, different potential fatal flaws exist. You need to
seek out the fatal flaws that may lurk due to your business's specific needs.
Ask others in the industry. Seek out consultants with hands on experience in
your industry. Ask the vendors to tell you what they consider your fatal flaws.
A truly focused vendor will know the issues.
Every piece of software you consider holds the potential for fatal flaws. Miss the fatal flaws and it is difficult to project what the future holds for you. As a process company, you have greater odds of running into Fatal Flaws than other companies. Look at the details; ask yourself the hard questions, more importantly, ask the vendors the hard questions. Get the proof that the vendor you select has the details you need and not fatal flaws.
Thompson, a principal of Process ERP Partners, has over 25 years experience
as an executive in the software industry with the last 17 in process industry
related ERP, SCP, and e-business related segments. Olin has been called "the
Father of Process ERP." He is a frequent author and an award-winning speaker
on topics of gaining value from ERP, SCP, e-commerce and the impact of technology
can be reached at Olin@ProcessERP.com.